Soz’s detention: Calling it freedom may be stretching law to breaking

Centre and Jammu & Kashmir administration are facing tough questions on Congress politician Saifuddin Soz’s detention. No sooner had the Supreme Court disposed of a plea on Soz’s “illegal detention” based on J&K administration’s claim that he was a free man, Soz demonstrated to journalists how he was being prevented from leaving his house. A video of Soz visiting his ailing sister went viral on Friday. But the visible restraints on Soz’s movements by his sentries on Thursday before reporters don’t lie either. Before the former Union minister moves SC again, the administration must remove all doubts on his freedom.

With the anniversary of Article 370 nullification approaching, Centre and J&K administration must make a distinction between political detainees like Soz or Mehbooba Mufti and those culpable for violent acts. Soz may be a vocal opponent of Article 370 nullification, but the absence of such political voices in the Valley creates a dangerous vacuum that separatists and terrorists can capitalise on. Many shades of Kashmiri public opinion are realistic that Article 370 isn’t coming back. If others do push for 370 then India, as a democracy, should permit such debate.

Internet freedoms are also an extension of political freedoms; both are intimately connected to fundamental rights of free speech and living with dignity. Though August 5 is expected to be stormy, the administration mustn’t delay for too long afterwards to restore 4G mobile services which, particularly in times of Covid, are critical for online education and economic activities. Young Kashmiris have borne many such curbs for a year and the fear of Pakistan’s mischief has run its course as a reason for denying basic rights. Having asserted Kashmir’s integrality to India, the Centre must now let the Valley’s politicians and economy carry forward the process.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.